Where To Find Free Rainwater Barrels | Build a Stash

This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Key Takeaways

  • Rain barrels collect rainwater from a building's roof using the gutter and downspout.
  • Using rainwater can help conserve water and reduce stormwater runoff.
  • Check with state or city water departments for free or low-cost rain barrels.
  • Non-profit organizations, online marketplaces, and businesses may have free barrels.

Collecting rainwater is a great way to get water for gardens and other non-drinking uses. Luckily, you can find free rain barrels if you know where to look.

You can often find free rainwater barrels in online classified ads, obtained from your city or town water department, businesses or factories, and recycling centers. If you want an alternative to rainwater barrels, consider digging a pond or repurposing wooden barrels.

Rainwater is a free and plentiful resource and can be used to reduce water bills and stormwater runoff. Collecting and using rainwater can help conserve water, reduce water pollution, and improve local watershed health. Additionally, rainwater is free from minerals and chemicals. This article looks at where to find free rainwater barrels, why you should use them and alternatives to traditional barrels.

Table of contents


What Are Rain Barrels?

Rain barrels serve as containers to collect rainwater from a building's roof through a gutter and downspout. The downspout's height is usually adjusted to allow rainwater to flow into the barrel beneath it. Typically, a spigot is fitted onto the barrel to connect a hose, while an overflow hose redirects excess water away from the foundation when the barrel becomes full.

Commonly made from 55-gallon food-grade plastic, rain barrels may be constructed from wood or non-porous material. The harvested water is ideal for outdoor chores, including lawn and garden irrigation, car washing, pool filling, and other uses.

Why Should You Use Rain Barrels?

There are several reasons why using rain barrels is beneficial. First, it helps conserve water and reduce stormwater runoff, particularly during the summer when outdoor tasks like watering lawns and gardens account for approximately 40% of household water use. By utilizing rainwater for outdoor purposes, you can avoid costly water bills, drought restrictions, and bans on lawn watering.

Additionally, when rainwater is not collected, it runs off impervious surfaces like roofs and pavement, picking up pollutants that can ultimately contaminate local waterways. Therefore, keeping and utilizing rainwater on your property can minimize pollution, erosion and enhance the health of your local watershed.

Moreover, rain barrels can provide ample water for your outdoor needs, as just a quarter-inch of rainfall on an average-sized roof can fill a rain barrel. Depending on the size of your garden, a full rain barrel can irrigate up to 200 square feet of it. To calculate how much water your roof can harvest, multiply its square footage by 623 and divide by 1000.

Lastly, rainwater is generally free from minerals and chemicals like chlorine, fluoride, and calcium in municipal water, making it ideal for watering plants, car washes and cleaning windows. Using rain barrels can improve the water quality used in household tasks while reducing environmental impact.

Where To Find Free Rainwater Barrels

Choosing to harvest rainwater does not need to be expensive. You can find free rainwater barrels in several places. Here is a quick list of places to check.

State or City Water Department

State or city water departments often have programs for rain barrel distribution and to promote water conservation. These programs aim to encourage using rainwater for outdoor water and reduce the demand for municipal water.

The water department may provide the rain barrel for free, while in others, residents may be required to pay a small fee.

Residents can check their state or city water department's website or contact their local office to inquire about rain barrel programs. In addition, some water departments may have an application process that requires residents to provide information about their property, such as the size of their roof and the location of their downspouts, to determine the appropriate size and number of rain barrels needed.

Non-Profit Organizations

Several non-profit organizations, including environmental groups and gardening associations, are dedicated to promoting sustainable living practices, including rainwater harvesting. These organizations often provide free rain barrels to encourage residents to collect rainwater. This helps to reduce their reliance on municipal water.

Many non-profit organizations often run educational programs on the benefits of rainwater harvesting and how to set up a rainwater collection system.

To obtain a free rain barrel from a non-profit organization, residents may need to attend a workshop or event, sign up for a newsletter or email list, or participate in a rainwater harvesting program.

Classified Ads / Online Marketplaces

Looking for free rainwater barrels on online marketplaces such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace is a good idea. Many people may have unused rain barrels sitting in their garages or backyards that they are willing to give away for free or at a low cost.

When searching for rain barrels on online marketplaces, check the barrels for cracks or damage, and ensure they have a lid or cover to prevent debris from getting into the barrel.

Local Businesses and Factories

Local businesses and factories may also have free rain barrels that they are willing to give away or sell at a low cost, especially if they are in the manufacturing or bottling industries.

Bottling plants, in particular, can be a good option for finding rain barrels. This is because many bottling plants use large plastic containers to store and transport liquids, which can be used as rain barrels.

When obtaining barrels from businesses or factories, it's important to ensure they are suitable for use as rain barrels and have not been used to store hazardous materials or chemicals.

Recycling Centers

Recycling centers are another option for finding free rain barrels. Many recycling centers collect and sort a wide range of materials, including plastic containers that can be repurposed as rain barrels.

When visiting a recycling center, you can ask if they have any plastic containers or barrels suitable for use as rain barrels. Some recycling centers may even have a designated area to store items that can be reused or repurposed.

Remember that some recycling centers may restrict taking items or barrels and require a waiver or release form to be signed before taking items. It's important to check with your local recycling center for their specific policies and guidelines.

Local Hardware Stores

Local hardware stores can also be a good source for finding rain barrels. Some hardware stores may sell new rain barrels but may also have used or refurbished barrels they are willing to give away for free or sell at a lower cost.

When visiting a hardware store, you can ask if they have any rain barrels available and if they have any sales or discounts on these items. You can also ask if they have any barrels that may have minor damage or defects but are still suitable for use as rain barrels.

In addition to finding rain barrels, hardware stores may have other supplies to set up your rainwater harvesting system, such as gutter extensions, diverter kits, and spigots.

If you are interested in finding free rain barrels, it's always a good idea to call ahead and check if the store has any available before making a trip. Some stores may have a limited supply, saving you time and effort to know in advance if they have any in stock.

What Can I Use Instead Of A Free Rain Barrel?

Several options are available if you want a DIY solution to obtaining rain barrels or a unique alternative.

Repurposed Containers

Look around your home for large containers you can repurpose to collect rainwater. For example, a large plastic trash can or a metal drum can be used as a rain barrel. Just ensure the container is clean and has a tight-fitting lid to prevent insects and debris from entering the water.

Underground Cisterns

If you have the space and resources, consider installing an underground cistern to collect rainwater. An underground cistern is a large rain tank installed underground that can hold a significant amount of rainwater. However, this option requires excavation and plumbing work, so it may not be suitable for everyone.

Rainwater Gardens

Instead of collecting rainwater in a barrel, you can create a rain garden in your yard to absorb rainwater and recharge the groundwater. A rain garden is a landscaped area designed to capture and hold rainwater, allowing it to soak into the ground slowly. You can plant rain gardens with native plants that can tolerate wet conditions.

Green Roofs

A green roof is covered in vegetation that can capture rainwater and reduce stormwater runoff. Green roofs can be installed on existing roofs and provide many benefits, such as insulation, energy savings, and improved air quality.

Is It Illegal To Collect Rainwater In The US?

The legality of collecting rainwater in the US varies depending on the state and local laws. In some states, such as Colorado and Utah, there are strict regulations on rainwater harvesting, while in other states, such as Oregon and Vermont, it is legal and even encouraged.

In some cases, collecting rainwater without a permit or violating local laws may result in fines or other penalties. Therefore, researching the laws and regulations in your area before starting a rainwater harvesting system is important.